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It pays to be likable and knowledgeable

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It pays to be likable and knowledgeable

It’s (finally) a done deal, my wife and I own a new Samsung stainless steel three-door refrigerator. We’ve been talking about it for two years, and after looking at the Thanksgiving newspaper inserts in the Los Angeles Times several weeks ago, we noticed that units previously selling for over $3,000 were now on sale for less than $2,000.

Without a particular brand in mind, our retail shopping options included Home Depot, Lowe’s, Best Buy and Sears. We ended up visiting three out of the four.

At Best Buy, we almost met some nice sales people. While looking at the refrigerators, the Best Buy Blue Shirt Team was out in force. Three associates approached us separately, and each in a very nice tone asked if we needed any help. Two associates told us that Best Buy has a price match guarantee as they prepared to turn and scamper away while adding the line, “Let us know if you have any questions.” We never saw either one again. Armed with our smartphones, we took pictures of refrigerators, price tags and QR Codes, and then left the store. Bye-bye Best Buy.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I’d like to report to MTD’s readers that Lowe’s also has a price match guarantee.

On our third stop, Sears, a likable and knowledgeable sales person took us out of the market; not because we were sick of shopping (which for my wife seems to be eternally true), but because we ran into a professional sales person.

I knew my shopping was over within two minutes of being approached by this individual. In a strange yet comforting way, I felt relaxed. Knowing that my wife needs a certain peace of mind before she can pull the trigger, I stood back and watched a trained professional work!

People shop for products, but buy from people

This sales person tuned in to my wife and I; he listened and confidently took us through a simple process, explaining features and benefits, pausing to listen and answer questions, then returning to his process. I call it a “process” rather than a “pitch” because it was so fluid, seamless and engaging. A pitch can seem like an impersonal endless reciting of facts and figures.

As you can imagine, the sale was made, the delivery date was scheduled, and my wife and I are now enjoying a shiny new refrigerator.

My points to the story are simple:

1. Sales is a profession.

2. Selling is work.

3. Selling is about the customer.

4. Sales is about selling stuff, every day, day after day.

The Blue Shirts at Best Buy were all nice, but when you’re in sales, it’s better to be likable and knowledgeable. Reciting a price match guarantee, really, is that professional? No, that’s being a parrot. Think about this for just a moment: Making a statement like, “Let me know if I can help you,” and then bolting in the opposite direction — it’s absolutely ridiculous. There is an art to being nice and assertive, and if your intent is to be a sales professional, then you must master your greeting/opening.

Here are a few examples of a professional greeting:

•  “Hi, my name is Wayne, and I’d be happy to help you select a refrigerator/tire.”

•  “Hi, my name is Wayne. You know what? I think this is the best place to buy a refrigerator/tire, and now is a great time.”

•  “Hi. These refrigerators/tires, they have never been better, with great features. When you’re ready, I’m here to help. My name is Wayne.”

Make them really like you!

You must say what you’re saying in a likable manner. Your greeting and opening approach must, must be likable.

The first time I heard this quote it made so much sense to me: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” You have to be likable first, then knowledgeable.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard this hundreds of times in a tire store — salesmen say, “If you find a lower price, call me, and I’ll beat it,” as they hang up the phone or as the customer walks out of the store.

In reality, as a sales person, you’re saying to the customer, “You do the work, and when you figure it out, let me know. Then I’ll give you a better price.” It’s absurd. The real reality check is that you have not closed the sale; in your mind, you’ve placed the burden on the customer, and let yourself off the hook.

Once this mentality sets in, you’re doomed. It’s unprofessional, and soon you’ll be looking for a job, another place to get a paycheck where you will find lazy customers to blame.

Selling is work; therefore, work to be likable, knowledgeable, respected and consistent. Like I’ve said before, “It’s nice to be nice, but in sales, it’s better to be likable.”    ■

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at


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